If And When We Rise
Chapter 05: The Party is Booming
"People in the room doing boom like it's never been done,
Bust a move it's just the kick-boom of a gun.
In the marquee the bass is booming,
Someone's smoking boom in da back of da room,
And it's the first day of Boom, the flowers are blooming.
Drum Boom bass and the party is booming;
Boom-ba-boom like a rocket taking off to da moon,
Boom-boom, like a bride and groom."
--'Boom', Flight of the Conchords
Reviewer Response is at the end of the chapter.
After six weeks of tutoring, Ichigo was able to maintain the small ball of reiatsu for nearly a minute and a half. He could deal with larger amount of reiatsu as well, though for less time. There was still an issue over Ichigo's inability to focus on other things while manipulating his reiatsu, but even that had improved, though not nearly as much as Ichigo wished it would.
Absently, Ichigo wondered why Rukia put so much effort into training him. They'd never met before, and in the month and a half of weekly training he'd learned that none of the Gotei Thirteen Squads were particularly desperate for new members, even if they were near the top of the Academy's advanced class. So there was no reason for her to be interested in him particularly. Unless, Ichigo thought, she had a personal reason.
"Pay attention!" Rukia shouted.
Ichigo looked down and with a small amount of trepidation realized that the reiatsu in his hand had begun spiraling out of control. He didn't have nearly enough skill to bring it back under his control, so he shoved the energy away. The concentrated reiatsu flew a few feet before dissipating violently, though the absorptive seki-seki walls limited the damage to a few scratches on the floor.
"Idiot." She pronounced. "I've told you not to let your concentration slip."
"Yeah, well, you should have warned me earlier." Ichigo said brushing dust off of his blue student's hakama.
"If I did that," Rukia said, glaring, "you wouldn't learn anything."
"I can't learn anything if I'm—"
"Oi! Sorry to interrupt!" Akiko shouted as she slammed the Practice Hall's door open, cutting Ichigo off. "But, Kuchiki-san, Crosser and I were wonderin' if ya could let Kurosaki off early today so we could go to the Setsubun Festival?"
"What?!" Crosser shouted shrilly from somewhere behind Akiko. "Don't drag me into this!"
"Stop bitching!" Akiko said over her shoulder, then back to Rukia. "We wanted to enter in the tournament, and we figured since he's been working so hard you'd let Kurosaki have a break."
There was a tense pause while Rukia considered. Ichigo had heard of the festival's tournament, though he wasn't sure if he'd enter. Now it seemed that he would get out of his tutoring early, and, if all he had to do was fight in a tournament, it would be worth it.
"If he can perform the first Hadou, then I will allow Ichigo to compete in the tournament." Rukia said.
"Hell yeah!" Akiko said, clenching her fist. Then she turned expectantly to Ichigo. "Hurry up, the sooner you do the stupid kido the sooner we can put our names in!"
"Yeah, yeah… you're impatient." Ichigo grumbled.
Ichigo began to gather his reiatsu into his palm, careful not to let any of the energy slip out of his grasp. In a few moments he had enough to power the kido, and, after reciting the tiny bit of poetry that served as an incantation, launched it at a nearby target. It wasn't very spectacular, and hit off center, but, technique-wise, it was leagues better than his attempts a month and a half earlier.
Crossing his arms and smirking, Ichigo asked, "I can go now?"
"Yes, I expect you won't shame yourself in the tournament?" Rukia answered.
"She means: don't screw up." Akiko said impatiently before grabbing a hold of Ichigo's arm and dragging him out of the Practice Hall. "Now c'mon, we ain't got all day."
An hour later, Ichigo was walking through the streets of Rukongai's Twenty-second District with Akiko and Crosser alongside him. It was barely past two and the festival's stands had already been lining the streets for hours, vendors shouting their wares and games to the few people who were out.
"Where are we going again?" Ichigo asked for at least the fourth time.
Akiko didn't answer, she was too busy glancing around and grumbling about poor directions to hear anything anyone said.
"Crosser," Ichigo said drawing his friend's attention away from one of the many festival game stands, "you know where we're going?"
"Yeah, the tournament registration desk. I've never actually been in the tournament, though, so I don't really know where it is."
"In other words, you're not much help."
"Not really. I don't like fighting too much; I usually only come to these things for the vendors and the kingyo-sukui." Crosser admitted.
"Goldfish-scooping?" Ichigo asked incredulously as they passed a fried food stand for the third time.
"Yeah, it's a surprisingly strategic game—"
"There it is!" Akiko shouted, cutting Crosser off. She grabbed both Ichigo and Crosser by their wrists and dragged them towards a plain looking stand hidden between a pair of gaudy food stalls. She stopped abruptly in front of the table underneath the stand's awning causing Ichigo and Crosser to barge into it and nearly knock the entire setup over.
"We wanna sign up for the tournament." Akiko announced loudly after the table had settled back on to all of its legs.
The scruffy man sitting behind the table looked up from the magazine he'd been reading throughout the scene Akiko had caused.
"Really? I never woulda' guessed." He said dryly as he looked them over. "Yer Academy students… What year?"
"Third." Akiko answered immediately.
"O-kay then." He turned and dug out a few sheets of paper from under the chair he'd previously occupied. "As a formality I need to check to see if you've got enough reiatsu. Take these papers and put some energy into 'em, if they turn black you can enter."
Akiko and Ichigo both took a piece of paper and, with more than a little concentration on Ichigo's part, focused their reiatsu into them. Almost immediately both of the papers turned jet black.
"Great. Now just fill out these release forms and yer done." The man said, then he noticed that Crosser had yet to do anything with the reiatsu test paper. "You havin' issues kid? 'S not that hard, just concentrate on the paper."
"Ah, err… no… I'm not having trouble, I'm just not entering." Crosser said, staring at his feet.
"What!?" Akiko, who'd been quietly filling out the release form, shouted. "What d'you mean you're not entering!?"
"I don't really like fighting people…"
"Lemme get this straight," Akiko said, staring at Crosser, "yer' a Shinigami, but you don't like fighting."
"It's not like that… it's more—"
"Whatever." Akiko cut Crosser off. "I just have to wonder why I seem to attract only weird people…"
"I'm not weird!" Crosser said indignantly.
"Yeah, sure, whatever you say."
"Hey," Ichigo said looking up from his nearly completed release forms, "if you morons can hurry up, I need to go back by the Academy and get Zangetsu."
"They allow Zanpakuto?" Crosser asked skeptically.
"There's no rule saying that they can't be used, and it's not like any of the Rukongai fighters are going to be unarmed."
"Kurosaki," Akiko said with a grin, "I like the way you think."
Ichigo barely even had to shift his weight as he used Zangetsu to block his opponent's ill-made Rukongai katana. It was the middle of the second match and, so far, Ichigo hadn't even needed to undo Zangetsu's cloth wrapping.
As his opponent drew his sword back for another strike Ichigo swung Zangetsu and missed. The other man's face split into a grin as he realized that Ichigo had left himself wide open. Ichigo realized this at almost the same time and instead of panicking allowed Zangetsu's centrifugal force to spin him in a circle.
The other man swore as he missed Ichigo who, still spinning, allowed Zangetsu's covered blade to slam into the man's side. Ichigo couldn't suppress a cocky grin as he watched as his opponent was flung backwards over the fighting ring's boundary line, hitting the ground with a satisfying thud.
"Ring out!" The referee shouted over the cheers and shouts of the crowd. "Winner: Kurosaki Ichigo! Next Match: Osamu Akiko versus Noburu Haru!"
As Ichigo left the ring he passed Akiko on the way in. She flashed him a confident grin even as she was anxiously fingering the hilt of her Zanpakuto. This was her first match as she had gotten a bye into the second round as there had been an odd number of entrants, and she was obviously nervous. It also didn't help that her opponent was another Academy student, though he wasn't in uniform so Ichigo couldn't tell what year he was in.
As evidenced by her Zanpakuto's changed guard, Akiko knew her sword's name. Ichigo was curious and wondered if she would release it in this match, but he figured she wouldn't want to display such a good trump card so soon in the tournament.
Both Akiko and her opponent, Haru, were warily circling each other, each trying to judge the other's strengths. The referee was taking his sweet time starting the match, Ichigo thought. The he noticed that the referee was staring, dumbfounded, at the sky. Ichigo followed the man's gaze, wondering what had distracted him from the match.
There were cracks forming slowly and constantly in the sky.
"Crosser?" Ichigo asked, elbowing his friend who had managed to get a seat directly on the sidelines. "There are cracks in the sky."
"What?" Crosser asked incredulously.
"There." Ichigo pointed and Crosser followed his gesture.
"T-that can't be happening…" Crosser said as he watched the cracks spread. "That only happens when Menos Grande cross planes… And Hollows haven't encroached on Soul Society since…" Crosser trailed off as the crack began to widen, white fingers slipping out to help pry it open.
By now everyone was staring stupidly at the sky, though only those who'd had Academy training and a few of the more experienced Rukongai souls knew what they were looking at.
"You have your Zanpakuto, right?" Ichigo asked.
"Y-yeah." Crosser replied. "I thought that if I brought it I wouldn't get mugged or pick pocketed or something."
"Good, we're gonna need all the firepower we can get."
"Wait! You can't seriously think we're going to stand a chance in a fight against these things!"
"Probably not, but we have to hold out 'til a captain or someone like that gets here. Otherwise all these people are gonna die." Ichigo said as pale white masks began appearing.
One by one the Menos began emerging and as they did so someone screamed, shocking the other people out of their fear induced dazes and into a terrified stampede to anywhere other than where they currently were.
"This is just goddamn depressing." A gruff voice said.
Ichigo and Crosser immediately turned away from the crack spewing forth Menos toward the ring where the voice had come from. In the center was what looked like a large white panther. It was standing on top of Noburu Haru looking around not taking any notice of Akiko who was plastered on the ground in front of it from the force of its reiatsu. The referee had fled with the spectators.
"I thought there was supposed to be someone here who could actually fight worth a shit." The panther grumbled as it continued to look around.
"I don't know what you are," Ichigo shouted out causing the panther to focus its attention on him, "but get the hell out of Soul Society!"
"It talks." The panther observed and Ichigo would have sworn it was chuckling.
Ichigo felt his ear pop as the panther's reiatsu washed violently over him. He looked to Crosser who was struggling to just remain standing in the backwash of reiatsu.
"Go get help."
"N-no… You'll be… killed." Crosser said with effort.
"I won't." Ichigo said, completely certain, though he couldn't say why.
"If you don't go get help, who's gonna come and scrape me off of the ground when this is over?"
"Fine…" Crosser agreed and then left, though not without one last worried glance back at his roommate.
"You didn't want your little friend to see you get killed?" The panther asked, watching Ichigo with predatory interest.
"Oh well." It said. "That just means I'll have to hunt him down when I'm done with you."
Though she hated to admit it, Rukia was lost. She hadn't been to any festivals since she'd been adopted into the Kuchiki family and even before then the ones she'd been to hadn't come anywhere near the size of the Twenty-second district's Setsubun festival. It also didn't help that, despite the flashing lights and bright colors of the individual stands, all the stands had managed to blend together into a giant blur.
She had meant to get to the tournament to watch Ichigo's matches. Rukia only saw him at their tutoring sessions, and, no matter how many times she denied it to herself, Rukia wanted to see how closely Ichigo matched her memories of Kaien. She already knew he was just as stubborn, if not more so.
Rukia remembered the warning Ukitake-taichou had given her when he'd found out where she went when she took off Mondays. Instead of telling her to stop like she halfway expected him to, he'd simply told her not to force her memories of Kaien on him. Rukia had agreed, as similar as Ichigo was to Kaien they were still different people, though that didn't stop them from being eerily similar to each other.
But right now none of that mattered. Because she was lost.
Sighing, Rukia began to entertain thoughts of asking for directions, it was starting to look more and more like it would be worth the damage her pride would suffer.
"Ah! Kuchiki-san! This is almost the last place I'd expect to see you!" Rukia heard a familiar voice call out. She turned and was immediately greeted by the sight of a more cheerful than usual Aizen Sôsuke followed by the man that always made her shiver internally with irrational fear, Ichimaru Gin.
"I'm surprised th' Kuchiki let ya' outta their little glass castle." Gin said, grinning as always.
"I am allowed to go where I wish in my free time, Ichimaru-taichou." Rukia responded politely.
"I s'pose that makes sense."
"Still," Aizen added, "this hardly seems like the kind of place a noble of your stature would go to for entertainment."
"I wished to see the tournament." Rukia said, hoping to get both directions and an easy excuse to escape from Gin's presence. "I'd heard about it, and it seemed like an interesting chance to view the fighting styles of others. However, I seem to have gotten lost."
"This festival is so large that I can't really blame you." Aizen said with a kind smile. "The tournament grounds are right over th…" Aizen trailed off in shock after he pointed to the general location of the tournament.
Rukia turned in the direction Aizen had indicated just in time to see the Menos Grande emerging from the sky.
"Kuchiki-san," Aizen said, nervously pushing his glasses higher up on the bridge of his nose, "I'm going to have to ask you to tell Yamamoto-sou-taichou what's happening."
Rukia almost refused, Ichigo was over there and she was sure the idiot would be throwing himself headlong into the fight without any thought to those around him. But she saw another Menos emerging and the worried look on Aizen's face. She knew enough to be able to tell that she would only get in the way if she followed the two captains into the fight.
"Yes, Aizen-taichou." She agreed quickly and then dashed towards Seireitei.
Ichigo glared angrily at the panther as best he could from his position bleeding on the ground. He'd been fighting the beast for less than five minutes and already he'd lost count of the gashes the cat had inflicted upon him. If he hadn't had such a strong will to live he'd have been dead by now. As it was he was suffering greatly from blood loss and his vision was fading dangerously in and out of focus.
"I thought you were supposed to be able to fight? You're no more fun than those little adjuchas shits who think they can beat me."
Ichigo didn't bother responding, there wasn't much he could do. He'd lost Zangetsu earlier and the sword now lay near Akiko, who's been pummeled unconscious by the sheer force of the panther's reiatsu.
'I'd say yer' screwed.'
Ichigo's head jerked up. "Who said that?!"
"You going crazy, Shinigami?" The panther asked bemusedly.
Ichigo ignored him, if the panther hadn't heard it then it had come from his head. But Ichigo was confused, the voice he'd heard had sounded nothing like Zangetsu.
'Damn right I don't sound like that old man!'
What the hell are you?! Ichigo demanded.
'That's not nice.' The voice scolded. 'I'm a who not a what!'
Fine! Who the hell are you?!
'Can't you tell? I'm you.'
"What?!" Ichigo demanded out loud, to the panther's amusement.
'Let me have control!'
Then Ichigo felt a pressure building in his head, almost like a steadily increasing migraine.
Are you doing this?! Ichigo demanded. The only answer he got was a demented chuckle. You are! Stop! You'll get me killed!
'No that's what you're doing, Partner. You can't fight this thing, you're not strong enough! So let me!'
Ichigo felt the pain in his head increase dramatically.
Ichigo fought the pressure and pain for as long as he could, but, with the panther watching interestedly, he eventually fell into black unconsciousness.
'Mine!' He heard the voice call out joyfully before he knew no more.
First off, I cannot apoligize enough to you guys. My only excuse is that college ate my muse and my free time. I've had to write more papers in my first semester than I wrote in my entire High School career. Hopefully you'll all be understanding, if not, well I'm sorry to see you go.
Next chapter we get some action! Will the hollow keep control? What are Aizen and Gin up to? And what about Urahara? Of course we can't forget Ichigo, all he really wants to do is get on with his afterlife, but it seems like that won't be happening anytime soon. Poor guy.
Other than that I didn't really get any questions from the last chapter so there isn't much response other than thank yous.
THANKYOU to my wonderful, glorious, and many other adjectives beta Unsane Chibi.
THANKYOU to the generous Creek for allowing me to use his character. (hope I haven't messed him up too badly...)
A HUGE THAKYOU to all my reviewers: Elistax, Phamalama, Sarloos, Kilonji, Baal of Yarns, divad relffehs, MysticMaiden 18, Shimo Ino, smlotrfan, Shahar Mystral, Wild Dragon's breath, Shakugan no Shana, cityangelz, Unsane Chibi, MysteriousEyez, sandcat, Mizu1411, Dark Inu Fan, amethyst ichigo, Idiotic-Ice, SSJXThead, and Xstarlight-dragonX
And finally THANKYOU to the 80 plus people who've watched/favorited this story.
PLEASE REVIEW! I have ANONYMOUS REVIEWS ENABLED! I don't mind if you copy/paste 'good job'! Reviews help me to know how I'm doing and questions and comments can even affect how I write this story!